World Bulletin / News Desk
Thousands of Burundians protested Saturday against a UN probe into alleged rights violations, the latest show of anger against what authorities see as foreign interference in the central African nation.
Mounting international criticism of abuses since President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term in April 2015 saw Burundi quit the International Criminal Court. The country also cut ties with the UN's main human rights body after a damning September report detailed atrocities, and warned of "genocide".
That report led the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to announce a one-year probe into abuses said to have been committed in Burundi since the political crisis erupted last year. Commissioners from Algeria, Benin and Britain were appointed Tuesday to lead the investigation.
"We called on the population of the capital to stage a massive protest against the nomination of three so-called UN experts to investigate Burundi," Bujumbura Mayor Freddy Mbonimpa told AFP, accusing the UN of working on "false reports".
Mbonimpa said in a telephone interview that there were more than 13,000 protesters while local journalists estimated around 10,000.
However several opposition figures took to social media to criticise the protest, saying a note -- seen by AFP -- was sent to civil servants saying attendance was "obligatory".
"Some are protesting voluntarily, sure, but there are quite a number who have come out of fear of being listed as enemies of the regime," said a civil servant working in the justice ministry, adding that he was taking part to "avoid problems".
The protesters also held a sit-in in front of the Belgian embassy to protest the organisation of a meeting with Burundian opposition members this week by the Belgian Senate.
The executive secretary of the ruling CNDD-FDD Evariste Ndayishimiye accused former colonial power Belgium of "acting as if Burundi is still under its yoke," on Twitter.
The UN estimates more than 500 people have died in Burundi while a report last week by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said more than 1,000 had lost their lives and hundreds more were missing.
At least 270,000 people have fled the country.
The FIDH warned of a "descent into hell" in Burundi, warning "all the criteria and conditions for the perpetrating of genocide are in place."
Burundi officials have mocked the use of the term "genocide" with an adviser to the president this week posting photos of himself posing with a kitten or juggling eggs on Twitter, alongside the hashtag #ThisisMyGenocide.
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One of the organisers said "more than 10,000" people turned out for the march to the trades union congress building. No official figure was immediately available.
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